email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
Self-Compassion in Psychotherapy10 Minute Solution: Butt Lift10 Minute Solution: High Intensity Interval Training101 Ways to Meditate3-In-1 Total Body Fitness with Desi Bartlett30 Minute Ab & Butt Blaster5 Day Fit Yoga5 Mega Miles with Toning Band7 Weeks to 100 Push-Ups8 Keys to Practicing MindfulnessA Student's Guide to the History And Philosophy of Yoga A.M. EnergyAgeless Mobility: Pain-Free Wellness For LongevityAlmost MeatlessAlready FreeAlternative Medicine?AltruismAnd BreatheAnywhere, Anytime, Any Body YogaAthlete's Guide to YogaBack in Action: Yoga for a Healthy BackBack To Basics: Fitness with Charlotte OrdBalanced AssetsBedroom Body: Booty Burner, Core & Pelvic Floor WorkoutBeginners Meditation & Mindful StretchingBeginners Yoga DVDBeginning YogaBellyFit ElementsBethenny's Skinnygirl WorkoutBody By BethennyBorn to Balance - Balance BasicsBreath-Centered YogaBrightening Our Inner SkiesCalm Body Clear MindCalm Focus JoyCardio for Beginners with Petra KolberChakra MeditationsComplementary and Alternative Therapies ResearchContemplative Psychotherapy EssentialsCore Fusion - Pilates PlusCore Fusion - Pure Abs & ArmsCore Fusion - Thighs & GlutesCore Fusion Body SculptCore Fusion Lean & TonedCore Fusion Power SculptCore Strength PilatesCore Strength Vinyasa Yoga Power Hour with Sadie NardiniCore YogaCultural Healing and Belief SystemsDance Off the Inches: Cardio Hip Hop PartyDeep ListeningDeep Stretch / Yin YogaDetox YogaDr. Andrew Weil's Guide to Eating WellDr. Yoga House CallEasy YogaElement: Barre ConditioningElement: Targeted Toning Pilates for BeginnersElement: Yoga for Stress Relief & FlexibilityElements of Yoga, Earth FoundationsElements of Yoga, Fire DynamicElements of Yoga: Air & WaterEveryday Workout for the Everyday WomanEveryday Yoga for Stress Release Everything VeganExercise for Mood and AnxietyExhale Core Fusion 30 Day SculptFamily YogaFit Family Fun CircuitFit in 5 DVDFlat Abs PilatesFlow YogaFluid Power Vinyasa Flow YogaFully PresentGaiam Pilates Slide and Sculpt Kit with DVDGaiam Pilates Total Toning KitGaiam Yoga For Weight Loss KitGet Fit Through GardeningGet Ripped & ChiseledGet Stronger Bones: 3 Workouts For OsteoporosisHandbook of MindfulnessHappy Yoga DVDHealing the Heart and Mind with MindfulnessHealing through ExerciseHealing Through Movement: Pilates Head to ToeHealing, Hype, or Harm?Healthy Sexy Beautiful Kundalini YogaHemalayaa: Bollywood BootyHow to Cook Everything VegetarianHow Would Buddha Act?In Defense of FoodInsight Yoga Earth: Balancing Yin EnergyInsight Yoga Heaven: Balancing YangIntegrated YogaKids Teach Yoga - Flying EagleKidYogi - Yoga for ChildrenKripalu YogaKundalini Yoga : DVDKUNDALINI YOGA for Your Week - MONDAYKUNDALINI YOGA for Your Week - TUESDAY - CoreKundalini Yoga MeditationKundalini Yoga Meditation for Beginners & BeyondKundalini Yoga Meditation for Complex Psychiatric DisordersKundalini Yoga on the BallKundalini Yoga Solar Power All-In-One WorkoutKundalini Yoga to Detox and Destress DVDKundalini Yoga Transformer All-In-One WorkoutKundalini Yoga: Green Energy of the HeartLetting Go!LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues--Level 1LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues: Level 2Living BeautifullyLiving Room Yoga DVDLiving Room Yoga: Twist and BendLunar Flow YogaMake It Fast, Cook It SlowManage Your Depression Through ExerciseMaui PilatesMayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for Back PainMayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for IBSMayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for InsomniaMeditations for BeginnersMindful AmericaMindful ColoringMindfulnessMindfulnessMindfulness for BeginnersMindfulness for CarersMindfulness for TwoMindfulness in Plain EnglishMindfulness-Based Treatment Approaches: Clinician's Guide to Evidence Base and ApplicationsMisadventures of a Garden State YogiNamaste Yoga: Season 3 Part 1Natural FlexibilityNew Good FoodNew VegetarianNew York PilatesNext-Level PilatesNutrition Essentials for Mental HealthPain Free at WorkPeace Is Every BreathPerfect in Ten AbsPerfect in Ten: PilatesPerfect in Ten: StretchPerfect in Ten: YogaPilates AnatomyPilates for BeginnersPositivityPower to the Peaceful YogaPower YogaPower YogaPower Yoga: Core PowerPower Yoga: Fat BurnerPower Yoga: Strength and FlexibilityPrenatal FlowPrescriptive StretchingPresence Through Movement: Yin YogaPsychology Moment by MomentPure and Simple YogaPure SculptQi Gong Fire & Water With Matthew CohenQi Gong Flow for BeginnersQi Gong for Low Back PainQi Gong for Upper Back and Neck PainQi Gong for Weight LossQi Workout AM/PMQiGong for Healthy Joints & BonesQiGong IllustratedQuick Blast MethodRadiant Heart Yoga DVDReach - Upbeat Toning & Flexibility for a Dancer's BodyRelax Into Yoga for SeniorsResistance Stretching With Dara TorresRestorative Yoga PracticeRestorative Yoga PracticeSara Ivanhoe's Taste DVDSelfless InsightSoupsSparkSpontaneous HappinessStep By Step Strength TrainingStep by Step Tai ChiStrength & SpiritStress Relief to GoStretchStrong & SculptedStrong Body, Ageless BodySuper Seniors: Box, Balance, & Lift Surf Yoga SoulSybel's Yoga For Sports & FitnessSybel's Yoga For Sports & Fitness Vol 2Tai Chi for Beginners with Grandmaster William C. C. ChenTeen YogaTeenYogi DVDTen Zen Tummy TonersThe 6 Qualities of ConsciousnessThe Accidental VeganThe Art and Science of MindfulnessThe Athlete's Guide to YogaThe Best Things You Can EatThe Booty Barre -Total New BodyThe Complete Book of Raw FoodThe Get Healthy, Go Vegan CookbookThe Harvard Medical School Guide to YogaThe Healing Remedies SourcebookThe Healing Remedies SourcebookThe Kettlebell BoomerThe Light of DiscoveryThe Mandala of BeingThe Meat Lover's Meatless CookbookThe Mindful Way through DepressionThe Nature FixThe Perfect ExerciseThe Psychology of LifestyleThe Qi Healing KitThe Road to Calm WorkbookThe Science of YogaThe Sense of SelfThe Spirit of Buddhist MeditationThe Spirit of Tibetan BuddhismThe Ultimate BALLET YOGAThe Ultra MindsetThe Well-Tuned BrainThe Yin Yoga KitTotal Health the Chinese WayTotal-Body ToningTransform Yourself with Jivamukti YogaTransformative YogaTrudie Styler's Cardio Dance FlowTrudie Styler's Warrior YogaV-Core WorkoutVegan ExpressVegan for LifeVegetarian Visitor 2008Viniyoga Therapy for the Low Back, Sacrum and HipsViniyoga Therapy for the Upper Back, Neck and ShouldersViva Vegan!Walk It Off in 30 DaysWalk to the HITS Radio RemixesWatch Me Do YogaWeight Loss Cardio KickWeight Watchers: Ultimate Belly SeriesYin and Yang YogaYin Yoga DVDYogaYogaYoga - Philosophy for EveryoneYoga : Beginners Flow for EveryoneYoga AnatomyYoga as MedicineYoga Bliss HipsYoga BodyYoga Body : Lean & Defined Total Body WorkoutYoga By Teens DVDYoga Emergency DVD: Arms & ShouldersYoga Emergency DVD: BackYoga Emergency DVD: Full Leg StretchYoga Emergency DVD: HipsYoga Emergency DVD: PregnancyYoga Flow DVDYoga for AnxietyYoga for Back CareYoga for BeginnersYoga for Energy & Stress ReliefYoga for FitnessYoga for MeditatorsYoga for OsteoporosisYoga for Pain ReliefYoga for Strength & EnergyYoga for Strength & FlexibilityYoga for Your WeekYoga in BedYoga Inside Out: Go DeeperYoga Inside Out: The Healing WayYoga Journal's Yoga for StressYoga Journal: Yoga for Strength and Toning DVDYoga Link: Core IntegrationYoga Link: Hip HelpersYoga Link: Shoulder Shape-UpYoga Nidra for Complete Relaxation and Stress ReliefYoga Quick FixesYoga Skills for Therapists:Yoga TherapyYoga Therapy for Back PainYoga Therapy Prescriptions - 60 Health Restorative SequencesYoga to the Rescue - Feel Good from Head to ToeYoga to the Rescue for Back PainYoga to the Rescue for Neck & ShouldersYoga to the Rescue for Pain-Free Back, Neck & ShouldersYoga, Karma, and RebirthYoga: Freedom from Back PainYoga: Relief from Neck and Shoulder PainYoga: Spirit of Vinyasa FlowYogabodyYogawomanYou Can Think Yourself ThinYour Body Breakthru - Your Best Body Circuit DVDYour Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings,Your Brain on YogaZen Encounters with Loneliness
This is a collection of essays on the topic of Complementary/Alternative Medicine (CAM) written by specialists from a wide range of backgrounds. The editor has given the contributors free rein to express their views. Since they come from a wide variety of angles from extremely anti-CAM to moderately supportive, the book contains widely different perspectives ranging from virulent attacks to thoughtful analyses. At first sight this may seem strange but in practice this book represents the very best of contemporary albeit on the whole skeptical scholarship. It is highly refreshing to find a collection that does not toe a line but instead gives a wide range of pros and cons and includes some new and stimulating ideas.
Edzard Ernst is the professor of CAM at the medical school of the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth in the U.K. Anyone who is familiar with his work knows that, although he is qualified and experienced in homeopathy, acupuncture and a wide range of other CAM techniques, he is also a traditionally qualified physician in the western tradition. His main aim has for many years now been to subject CAM claims to rigorous scientific analysis. He insists that CAM should be evidence-based rather than faith-based. He is passionate about honesty and transparency and feels strongly that many CAM practitioners at best are duping themselves and at worst are charlatans making a fast buck out of their patients' gullibility. This explains why most articles in this collection are at the skeptical to negative end of the spectrum.
The book's introductory section contains two fairly balanced articles. The first, 'What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine?' by Barbara Wider and Kate Boddy is an attempt to give the reader an understanding of what CAM is and its relationship with the mainstream medical tradition. We get our first glimpse of CAM's uneasy relationship with the scientific method -- an issue that will be covered in detail in the first article in the next section -- but on the whole the authors give us a fairly unbiased view. The second article, 'Why is CAM so popular?' by Stéphane Lejeune, is a very fair attempt to give us the philosophical framework within which CAM is flourishing. The author uses the materialist versus spiritual dichotomy to explain how it is that people find a purely mechanical explanation for human illness very unappealing and hence they feel a need for something more 'holistic'.
The next section, entitled 'General issues', contains seven articles. The first, 'Evidence in Healthcare: What it is, and how we get it' by Leslie B. Rose, is extremely good in explaining how clinical trials work and how important the various stages are -- using a control group in addition to the experimental group, removing the possibility of bias, getting the results independently checked, having the research reviewed by peers, replicating the experiment, etc. Unfortunately, very few CAM trials come anywhere near meeting these criteria. The second article, 'Reclaiming Compassion' by Michael Fitzpatrick, is a strong defense of traditional medicine. The author argues well that various social and economic factors have led to a weakening of many people's trust in traditional medicine but, he thinks, bio-medicine has the power to really cure people whereas CAM offers only illusions. So long as doctors try to use their knowledge to treat the whole person and not just the disease, he thinks that traditional medicine has all the cards stacked in its favor. The third article, 'Alternative Medicine in UK Universities' by David Colquhoun, is a hard-hitting attack of those British universities that are offering CAM course, especially those that are awarding a B.Sc. degree for such a course because, the author argues, there is not one scrap of genuine science in any of them. The fourth article, 'Healing but not Curing: Alternative Medical Therapies as Valid New Age Spiritual Healing Practices' by Bruce G. Charlton, is a sympathetic appraisal of CAM and seeks to place CAM within a broader search for spirituality that marks contemporary society. The fifth article, 'Research on Complementary or Alternative medicine: The Importance and Frailty of Impartiality' by Asbjørn Hróbjartsson, is a plea that all CAM researchers should be impartial i.e. that they should be open to the possibility that any trial may come up with a negative result. As in Leslie B. Rose's article, this author emphasizes the need for proper trial procedures to be followed. It is not just CAM researchers, of course, who are prone to failing the impartiality test. One is reminded of the American and British professors who thought that they had discovered cold fusion and rushed into print before they had followed all the correct procedures and were subsequently ousted from their posts. The sixth article, 'An Amateur's View of the CAM Scene' by James Randi, is an unadulterated attack on homeopathy in particular and CAM in general. It exposes many of the shenanigans engaged in by CAM exponents. The seventh article, 'CAM in Court' by John Garrow, is an attack on many of the false claims made by CAM practitioners. The author argues that bio-medicine is subject to very strict rules but that many if not most CAM claims go untested in court even though, if they were to be legally tested, they would be found to be nothing but deliberately deceptive flummery.
The final section, entitled 'Specific issues', contains ten articles of which the first, 'Ethics and Complementary or Alternative Medicine' by Michael Baum and Edzard Ernst, is an attack on much CAM research which, the authors argue, is unethical because it deliberately avoids the hard issues that would be exposed by proper quantitative research and, instead, tends to adhere to soft qualitative approaches. The second article, 'CAM and Politics' by Leslie B. Rose and Edzard Ernst, exposes the strange links between, on the one hand, the British Royal Family, Prince Charles in particular, and politicians of all persuasions with, on the other hand, the CAM movement. The authors find it strange that those in positions of power are so susceptible to the overtures of the CAM movement and so reluctant to apply rigorously scientific criteria to CAM claims. The third article, 'Integrated Medicine?' by Edzard Ernst, is an appeal for people not to think of CAM as being the only 'holistic' approach. Traditional bio-medicine is or should be 'holistic' and people should not be duped into reading more into CAM than is actually there. The fourth article, 'Homeopathy in Context' by G.V.R. Born, is a strong attack on homeopathy in view of the fact that homeopathic remedies have consistently failed to achieve better than chance results in any properly conducted clinical trials. The fifth article, "Chiropractic: Science, Religion or Political Movement?' by Terry Polevoy, is an equally stringent attack on chiropractic which, the author argues, is quackery of the worst sort based as it is on the existence of so-called 'subluxations' -- supposed misalignments of the spine that have never been seen or proved to exist by science. The sixth article, 'Concepts of Holism in Orthodox and Alternative Medicine' by Michael Baum, is a rather beautiful plea for physicians working in the traditional medical sector to see their work as very much holistic i.e. concerned with the whole person and in touch with all the moral and personal issues involved in so many medical decisions. It is also a plea for everyone to see traditional medicine and not just CAM as being holistic. The seventh article, 'Vitalism and other Pseudoscience in Alternative medicine: The Retreat from Science' by P.H. Canter, is an attack on beliefs in unsubstantiated presuppositions such as the existence of some vital force that 'magically' underlies our material existence. The eighth article, 'Placebo and other Non-specific Effects' by Edzard Ernst, is an argument that many and perhaps even most CAM therapies appear to be effective simply because the placebo effect kicks in. He argues that trials in such therapies do not appear to control for the placebo effect even though that is precisely what is producing the result. If one were to remove the placebo effect then most if not all CAM remedies would be revealed as ineffective. The ninth article, 'CAM in the media -- An easy Ride?' by Ben Goldacre, questions why the media are so easy on CAM practices and concludes that the need to generate income is much more important than publishing the truth. He argues that the profit motive is seriously distorting media coverage. The final article, 'Patient Choice' by Hazel Thornton, ends the book in a questioning tone. She raises the issues connected with choice -- the need to have full information, for example, if one is to make a fully informed choice. She concludes that in the present climate of misinformation it is impossible for patients to make an informed choice.
The book as a whole is packed with cautionary tales that make for rather sad reading. For those people actively researching in the field of CAM this book is a 'must have.' It raises many of the most pressing concerns -- people's search for a holistic view of life, the distorting effect of a 'profit first and truth second' climate, the misuse of statistics, etc. One may not agree with everything that is written in this book but it is wonderful that academic honesty is still alive and well.
© 2009 Kevin M. Purday
Kevin M. Purday has just completed his fortieth year as a teacher and has recently returned to the U.K. after being principal of schools in the Middle East and Far East. His great interests are philosophy and psychology.